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Putting the kids first, Jan Pryor


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Putting the kids first, Jan Pryor

  1. 1. Putting the Kids First Caring for Children After Separation Jeremy Robertson and Jan Pryor Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families Victoria University
  2. 2. Context of the study <ul><li>The majority of separating families do not go through the Family Court; what can we learn from them? </li></ul><ul><li>They comprise 80-90% of separating couples </li></ul><ul><li>Maxwell et al (1990) found that those making their own arrangements were more satisfied than those who used the Court </li></ul><ul><li>We know almost nothing about how they make decisions about living arrangements </li></ul>
  3. 3. Some data on living arrangements <ul><li>22% of NZ children had no contact with nonresident parent (Lee 1990) </li></ul><ul><li>25-36% of Australian children had no contact with nonresident parent (ABS 2006; Smyth 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Contact overall seems to be increasing in western world </li></ul>
  4. 4. Other considerations <ul><li>Living arrangements difficult to measure and compare e.g. resident parents report higher rates than nonresident parents </li></ul><ul><li>Overnight visitation is important for parenting. In Australia in 2003 52% of children never stayed over (ABS) </li></ul><ul><li>Contact other than face to face is important (e.g. text, e-mail, phone) especially possibly for adolescents </li></ul>
  5. 5. Objectives of this study <ul><li>To understand the pathways through which parents make decisions regarding post-separation living and parenting arrangements for their children; </li></ul><ul><li>To identify the arrangements that parents come to regarding living and contact arrangements for their children; </li></ul><ul><li>To understand how well these work and whether they change over time. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Methodology of the study <ul><li>Semi structured interviews, qualitative analyses </li></ul><ul><li>39 parents (24 mothers, 15 fathers; 8 couples included) </li></ul><ul><li>Auckland and Wellington region </li></ul><ul><li>No Family Court involvement </li></ul><ul><li>Self selected probably non representative sample (6 Maori, 6 Pacific) </li></ul>
  7. 7. How arrangements were made (1) <ul><li>Both parents were involved in most cases; </li></ul><ul><li>Most put aside their personal and relationship issues in order to focus on children; </li></ul><ul><li>Most were willing to compromise; </li></ul><ul><li>Most had informal arrangements (10 consulted lawyers for help in drafting arrangements) </li></ul>
  8. 8. How arrangements were made (2) <ul><li>The first principle for these families was that the child needed good relationships with both parents; </li></ul><ul><li>Negotiated details from that position and within their own contexts; </li></ul><ul><li>17 of 31 families made arrangements without help </li></ul><ul><li>14 used counsellors </li></ul><ul><li>10 consulted lawyers for help with arrangements </li></ul>
  9. 9. Arrangements made <ul><li>All but 3 included o/n stays with nonresident parent (one father in prison, one child breastfed, one had CYP intervention) </li></ul><ul><li>10 had shared care </li></ul><ul><li>12 had weekends with overnights </li></ul><ul><li>6 had one month or less contact with nonres. parent </li></ul><ul><li>3 had infrequent or irregular contact with nonres p. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Importance of flexibility <ul><li>This was noted as a feature of workable arrangements: </li></ul><ul><li>Involved good communication </li></ul><ul><li>Plenty of warning </li></ul><ul><li>Not too often </li></ul><ul><li>reciprocated </li></ul>
  11. 11. Changes in arrangements <ul><li>Many noted that they tried several arrangements before settling on one </li></ul><ul><li>9 had maintained arrangements since agreement </li></ul><ul><li>8 reported minor changes (both more and less contact) </li></ul><ul><li>14 reported major changes (parents moving, resident parent stress, repartnering) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Factors influencing arrangements made (1) <ul><li>The quality of the parental relationship - putting aside feelings: </li></ul><ul><li>“ I was extremely angry and bitter but I just pretended I wasn’t for my daughter’s sake. For my own sanity I had to let it all go.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s the baggage that creates the tension…I have had to bite my lip. It’s about having some good communication.” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Other factors <ul><li>Geography </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to acknowledge children’s best interests </li></ul><ul><li>New partners </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledging the importance of fathers in children’s lives </li></ul><ul><li>Support from friends and family members </li></ul>
  14. 14. Where did they turn for information? <ul><li>14 talked to counsellors </li></ul><ul><li>2 said they read books (but a dearth of books around) </li></ul><ul><li>3 used the internet </li></ul><ul><li>4 asked the advice of lawyers </li></ul><ul><li>Some suggested friends and family members but used them mainly for support </li></ul>
  15. 15. Advice for other separating parents <ul><li>Set aside personal issues: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Always put your kids first. Even if you have to compromise yourself…for the kids. It’s about the kids.” (mother) </li></ul><ul><li>“ The top of the list is making sure that your child’s interests are at the top of the list. And your own individual circumstances - be it broken hearts, wounded pride, frustration and anger - is nothing. Pales into insignificance.” (father) </li></ul>
  16. 16. More advice… <ul><li>Don’t criticise the other parent: </li></ul><ul><li>“ You have to put aside the personal are never going to be best friends.” (mother) </li></ul><ul><li>“… forget about the fights with the ex - it’s over - just sort out the kids’ arrangements calmly and quietly.” (mother) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Look after yourself… <ul><li>“ I think you need time for yourself - it’s getting the balance right.” (father) </li></ul><ul><li>“ You need a good support network of friends, and use the resources that are there.” (mother) </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s about sorting it out first…so when talking things through our baggage is left at the door.” (father). </li></ul>
  18. 18. It’s not easy… <ul><li>“… in some ways it is harder - handled so well - it has been more difficult.” (mother) </li></ul><ul><li>“ If the father had disappeared off the scene it would have been far easier…seeing the person all the time - the emotions take a lot longer than the actual facts.” (mother) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Insights from this study <ul><li>Priority of wellbeing for children, and manageable communication, are keys to successful arrangements. </li></ul><ul><li>These families took time to reach workable agreements - we should perhaps ease off emphasising the need for immediate solutions? </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility and reciprocity are wonderful if they can be achieved. </li></ul><ul><li>Many did not use information from outside; we need to promote the FC as a nonlitigious path, and the use of PTS. </li></ul><ul><li>It is not easy to separate ‘well’ and we need to acknowledge that is not a failure to need help. Some of these parents were noble! </li></ul>